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Could quick-build modular homes help tackle the housing crisis in west Suffolk?

PUBLISHED: 16:53 13 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:49 14 December 2018

The draft West Suffolk Housing Strategy looks at modern construction methods to deliver new housing, such as modular homes Picture: PA

The draft West Suffolk Housing Strategy looks at modern construction methods to deliver new housing, such as modular homes Picture: PA

New types of housing - such as modular properties - could be part of the solution to addressing the need for more homes in west Suffolk, a new vision has suggested.

The challenge of how St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils can support the delivery of homes that are decent and affordable is the subject of the draft West Suffolk Housing Strategy.

To meet the projected demand for new properties, 18,280 new homes need to be built across St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath over 20 years up to 2031.

As at 31 March 2017 west Suffolk has delivered 3,268 homes since 2012 when the local plans started.

See here for our piece on how the high cost of housing is forcing families out of villages in Suffolk

A spokesman for the councils said at the moment they allocate land for new homes and decide on the subsequent planning applications that come in – but permitted homes don’t always get built by developers as quickly as hoped.

He said under the strategy the councils would look at ways it can help to bring housing sites forward and encourage new types of housing including modular homes.

The council spokesman said: “Modular housing, which is a very popular method of construction in Europe and Scandinavia, involves off-site fabrication of housing in factories. The parts are then brought to the site and put together. This improves the speed of construction while maintaining high quality of housing.

“Examples of this type of housing already exist in west Suffolk, with four homes recently built this way in George Lambton Avenue in Newmarket by Flagship Housing.”

The council spokesman added if there are delays in building permitted homes, this in turn means there is more demand for homes than houses to meet it.

That then forces up the cost of homes and rents, and also impacts on the rental cost and delivery of “affordable homes”, which are based on 80 per cent of market rents.

The strategy document says in west Suffolk there are 4,918 homes with planning permission that have not started or are currently under construction, as at March 2017.

As well as being about new homes, the vision aims to maintain the councils’ approach to influence and help owners of empty homes to bring them back into use.

“It would also use its roles across the board from planning to building control, to environmental health to work toward improving housing standards, suitability and how communities grow, in new and existing homes, to help meet housing needs across west Suffolk,” the spokesman said.

Councillor Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for housing at West Suffolk councils, said the place that people call home can have a huge impact of their lives in terms of their physical and mental health and wellbeing and the availability and affordability of housing also underpins the success and growth of the local economy.

Next week the draft housing strategy will come before meetings of St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council, having been recommended for approval by cabinet on Tuesday, December 11.

Ms Mildmay-White added: “The council is, of course, just one partner in all of this, but through this strategy, which I hope will be backed by my fellow councillors next week, the council can play a significant role in delivering new homes and making the best use of existing ones.

“It is a role that supports our residents, our local families and communities including our many businesses – and ensures that west Suffolk not only continues to be a place where people want to live, but also a place where they can.”

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